Our View: Respecting the will of the people

Editorial Board, August through January 2012

  • Scott Stanford, general manager
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Shannon Lukens, community representative
  • Scott Ford, community representative

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Petty is the word of the week in Routt County, describing both the minor marijuana infractions that local law enforcement officers appropriately no longer are citing, as well as the draconian decision of 14th Judicial District Attorney Brett Barkey to move forward with prosecution of pot cases still in the judicial system. 

Barkey’s announcement Thursday that his office will continue to prosecute the handful of petty marijuana possession cases pending in the 14th Judicial District’s three counties — Routt, Moffat and Grand — appears to be a spiteful decision by a man who was a vocal opponent of Amendment 64. We hope judges in the 14th Judicial District do a better job respecting the will of the people than Barkey is.

Barkey’s reasoning — “We have an obligation to enforce the law as it is,” he told a Steamboat Today reporter — sounds a lot like the stance espoused by Weld County DA Ken Buck, another staunch opponent of Amendment 64 who issued a statement this week justifying his own decision to proceed with prosecuting petty marijuana offenses. Such offenses are those involving possession of 2 ounces or less of marijuana and possession of marijuana paraphernalia. Amendment 64, once certified, will make it legal for Coloradans 21 and older to possess as much as 1 ounce of marijuana. The law is expected to go into effect no later than Jan. 1

Buck went a step further, adding: “But more importantly, our office prosecutes low-level possession cases to get drug users help with their addictions.” 

It’s safe to assume that a significant motivation for many voters who supported Amendment 64 — it passed with 63 percent of the vote in Routt County — is the unwarranted expense of taxpayer money and government resources on pursuing and prosecuting cases involving small amounts of marijuana for personal consumption. Further, we think many Coloradans agree that the lasting effect of a marijuana conviction — particularly one for a petty offense — on an individual’s record is far too harsh given society’s general attitude toward the drug. After all, we’ve come a long way since “Reefer Madness.”

So why is Barkey so intent on prosecuting petty marijuana cases still pending in the courts, particularly after the electorate clearly has stated what it thinks about the seriousness, or lack thereof, of minor marijuana possession? Barkey needs to be reminded that as the newly elected district attorney, he is a public servant who should carry out the will of the people he represents. Perhaps he should take a cue from Steamboat Police Chief Joel Rae and Routt County Sheriff Garrett Wiggins, who despite their personal opposition to Amendment 64 instructed their officers in the wake of Election Day to immediately stop citing adults 21 and older for possession of less than 1 ounce of marijuana. 

Rae and Wiggins recognized the will of the people, which makes it all the more baffling that Barkey hasn’t. 

Community comments

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(John St Pierre) fishcreek says...

With all due respect to the Pilot's viewpoint I would like to point out that when the District Attorney was sworn into his position his Oath of office included Article 12 section 8 of the COLORADO CONSTITUTION:
Every civil officer, except members of the general assembly and such inferior officers as may be by law exempted, shall, before he enters upon the duties of his office, take and subscribe an oath or affirmation to support the constitution of the United States and of the state of Colorado, and to faithfully perform the duties of the office upon which he shall be about to enter.

In his defense he must by law uphold not only the laws of Colorado but of the United States..... question should be how can any other state public official not do the same????????

Posted 18 November 2012, 11:32 a.m. Suggest removal

(Kris Hammond) KrisHammond says...

It would seem that this dual obligation pulls the DA in two different directions. However, the DA's oath is to support the CONSTITUTIONS of the United States and of Colorado. Because the US Constitution makes no mention of marijuana, it exerts no "pull" on the the DA. In contrast, the Colorado Constitution has just been amended by the vote on 64, making recreational marijuana legal. The DA's oath requires him to support 64.
If the DA's oath required him to support the LAWS of the United States, he would be in a pickle, but the enforcement of Federal laws (like Federal marijuana prohibition) is the job of the FBI and the US Department of Justice.

Posted 18 November 2012, 12:36 p.m. Suggest removal

(kevin fisher) routter says...

Let's also not forget about prosecutorial discretion. If Mr. Barkey feels that the solemnity of his office requires that he follow through on this handful of possession cases; Then I also expect him not to plea a single case while D.A., and afford each-and-every individual charged with a crime a Constitutionally-provided jury trial.

I won't hold my breath.

Posted 19 November 2012, 8:34 a.m. Suggest removal

(Scott Wedel) Scott_Wedel says...

The funny part is DA Barkley's assertion that prosecuting petty mj cases will help people with their addictions.

So how is being charged and pursuing the charge of petty possession supposed to help mj users?

From what I've seen, having a petty possession charge on a person's record REINFORCES their mj use. Because now for those employers that perform background checks then this person is now labelled as a mj user even if they have quit. So that reduces the incentive to quit because they will be known as a mj user regardless.

What I have seen with mj users is that they decide to stop smoking because they got a good job that has drug testing or a life changing event where they don't want to waste time being high.

The whole idea that prosecuting will help mj users to quit is stupid because mj users will say it is healthier for them than alcohol which is legal. So they think they are being prosecuted only because the laws treat a less harmful drug more punitively than a more harmful liquid. And being prosecuted even after the voters fixed the mistakes is hardly going to change that view.

Posted 19 November 2012, 10:55 a.m. Suggest removal

(bill schurman) expublicdefender says...

If convicted of ANY Marijuana possession a trip to the sheriff's office is required for pictures and prints. Then one has a FBI and CBI "rap sheet" forever. Same requirement if with 100 #'s heroin, meth, coke, etc. Plus no Federal Student loan. Plus, public service.
GO for it Brett, mess with People's lives, 'cuz you can.

Posted 19 November 2012, 4:09 p.m. Suggest removal

(mark hartless) markhartless says...

Isn't the right to "plea a... case" the choice of a defendant, NOT the DA???
I thought the DA made the offer (at their discretion) and the defendant made the choice???
Just asking.

It's sad how some people lament about their pollitical foes who "mess with people's lives" while remaining completely indifferent to the "messing with people's lives" that is done by those who they, themselves, empower.
Bill, For a Democrat to gripe about others "messin with [their] lives" is one of the funniest things I've ever heard.
As a democrat, you seriously want to strike that match?
Please...

Posted 19 November 2012, 9:40 p.m. Suggest removal

(bill schurman) expublicdefender says...

Your right wing is showing...

Posted 20 November 2012, 11:40 a.m. Suggest removal

(rhys jones) highwaystar says...

Mark -- You had a good line going re/"messing with people's lives" until you twisted the argument to irrelevancy, by making the good guys (at least at the polls) the bad guys (ie the accused). We can buy into bad guys getting their just rewards, not that that includes 47% of all of us. Everybody was talking Constitution, then you introduced political parties. You didn't address the argument -- you dodged it. Basic Logic 101. Nice swipe, though.

Posted 20 November 2012, 11:56 a.m. Suggest removal

(mark hartless) markhartless says...

Democrats are the "good guys"?
Why?
Because they won 51% of the vote?

I didn't intend to address "the" argument.
My intent is rarely to address "the" argument.

My intent was to show hypocricy.
Someone like Bill, who never met a leftist idea he didn't like, complaining about how someone is "messin with lives" is hysterical, Rhys.
You know it. I know it.
Liberals "mess with my life" every minute of every day... ditto for conservatives.

Republicans and democrats are the two entities on planet earth who "mess with lives" more than all others combined.
I don't want one to prevail at the expense of the other, I want them both to go away.

Posted 20 November 2012, 9:35 p.m. Suggest removal

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